When the pandemic hit and life started feeling more and more uncertain, Maggie Rogers retreated to the north of Maine and cut the noise off. Here, she immersed herself in the energy emitted by the unruly northern Atlantic Ocean and came out with Surrender. Following up her commercially successful and very, very, promising debut, Heard It In A Past Life, the songs feature plenty of Rogers’ succinct and observant lyricism alongside layered vocal work and newfound energetic production.
In many ways, the album is a literal surrendering to the natural forces of the world that are out of humankind’s control. When the world makes you feel messy or unloved, music is the outlet to which many of us go. Rogers is no different, and that’s apparent on Surrender. She wrote some 100 songs for the project, and it’s taken her several months to pare the selection back. She needed just the ones to capture the frenetic energy of her last two years accurately.
She launched her new era with “That’s Where I Am,” which maintains a fast pace as she sticks by her love no matter what happens.
Then came “Want Want,” written with her former bandmate Del Water Gap, and is meant to be an escape to a bubblegum-like world when the darkness and isolation are too much. The chorus bangs and a light piano trills as she lets her urges out for the world to see. “If you want-want what you want-want, then you want it/ Can’t hide what you desire once you’re on it,” she sings after the second verse, at first softly then again with more vigor.
The energy Maggie Rogers established with the singles is maintained through the rest of the album. “Be Cool” is one of the poppiest tracks on Surrender. Here, she recounts someone checking her behavior one summer each time she acted out. The relationship feels platonic, filled with moments like listening to Britney Spears and more intimate nights spent talking one another off of whatever cliff on which they found themselves.
There are a few songs that feel like she transports herself back to her teenage years. There’s “Shatter,” where she’s overcome with young love. “I don’t care if it nearly kills me,” she belts before recounting throwing glasses just to watch them go all over the place. “I’ve Got a Friend” is dedicated to one of her best friends.
The two clearly lead intertwined lives and are always there for each other. From smoking weed to talking her out of doing something that will get her arrested, holding hands at the friend’s mom’s funeral—the two have seen one another through more than could be told in three minutes. No matter—Rogers is a versed songwriter and is able to pare back the words and deliver the essentials to drive her point home.
The album is full of songs that show fully formed songwriting and Rogers’ ability to deliver them. This is apparent in five-minute endeavor “Horses,” maintained through an acoustic guitar as Rogers draws parallels between the energy and strength of horses and her relationships. In the concluding track, “Different Kind of World”—perhaps the most reflective of the environment in which she wrote the album—she describes her back hurting and palms shaking while being forced to come to terms with the state of our world.
Unfortunately, her symptoms are all too relatable. But maybe, relating to music is exactly where we’ll find our own comfort?
Throughout Surrender, Rogers is louder and more confident than she’s been on previous releases. It’s a clear sign of musical growth from the recent Harvard Divinity School graduate. And if that distinction alone isn’t enough to convince you to listen, what is?